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Richard Youngs - Like a Neuron

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Artist: Richard Youngs

Album: Like a Neuron

Label: Dekorder

Review date: Sep. 3, 2009

When Dusted last checked in with Richard Youngs, author Josie Clowney wrestled with her malaise over the prolific experimenter’s approach on 2008’s Autumn Response. Like most of Youngs’ records, Autumn Response went beyond genre constraints, taking a risk for the sake of sonic exploration. After mulling over the effectiveness of Youngs’ technique – his exploitation of repetition and theme through multi-tracked vocals and brittle guitar cycles – Clowney concluded the review by asking: “What will happen in the spring? ... Will Youngs come out of hibernation and switch styles again?”

Surveying the Glasgow-based guitarist’s output this year, the answer is, unequivocally, “yes.” In June, Youngs quietly released Beyond the Valley of Ultrahits on Andrew Paine’s Sonic Oyster records, trading the somber, delicate meanderings of Autumn Response for a more inviting approach: a veritable pop record composed of drum machines, synthesizers, and Youngs’ unmistakable harmonies. If last year’s release stepped on the wrong side of the line between sublime and unbearable, as Clowney suggested, then Beyond the Valley was a leap back into bliss. It found Youngs pursuing yet another uncharted path for his repertoire that was, despite its accessibility, a radical departure.

Close on the heels of Beyond the Valley, Like a Neuron follows a similar synthesizer framework, but sheds the vocals and verse/chorus composition to shift into maximalist overdrive. A self-proclaimed “ecstatic house” record, Like a Neuron falls somewhere between fellow UK underground stalwart Neil Campbell’s Astral Social Club and Black Dice at their most sprawling – a combination of volatile psychedelia and zen electronics. The reference to house music may be a tad conceptual, but the record does flow with a schizophrenic pulse that is as hypnotic and inviting as dance music can be, burying traces of rhythm beneath a cloud of competing noise.

And yet, Like A Neuron still exudes an element of humanity, a sense of personal conviction that Youngs sews into each pluck of the keyboard. Such a unique, pervasive voice is what makes his music, though wildly varied in incarnation, so appealing and relevant. It’s as though Youngs composes in concepts, without a particular one in mind; his explorations are each distinctive pieces, the effects of an endless curiosity with sound, song and structure.

Like a Neuron is another vehicle for this ongoing probe, another unexpected, intense experiment: From the analog glisten of opener “Tapes of Bothwell,” to the eerie complexity of “Call of the Full Ultra,” to the stuttering hard-drive crash that closes the album on “Alpha Blues.” Even though the most loyal of Youngs’ devotees may find it difficult to follow him down his particular tangents, there is comfort – and excitement – in knowing that he’s capable of, and content with, changing directions on a whim.

By Cole Goins

Other Reviews of Richard Youngs


Airs of the Ear

Autumn Response

Under Stellar Stream

Amplifying Host

Regions of the Old School

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View all articles by Cole Goins

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